4th February 2000 at 00:00
APPLYING PSYCHOLOGY TO CRIME. By Julie Harrower. APPLYING PSYCHOLOGY TO SPORT. By Barbara Woods. APPLYING PSYCHOLOGY TO THE ENVIRONMENT. By Susan Cave. Hodder amp; Stoughton. pound;7.99 and pound;8.99 each.

If psychology is to be more than an academic discipline, it must prove its value by helping to answer the big questions of the day. This series of books for A-level looks at the ways in which psychological theories and research help make sense of our everyday lives.

Since the advent of ITV's Cracker, interest in the role of the criminal psychologist has mushroomed. Julie Harrower outlines what a real life Cracker does and explains how to become one - a harder task than most appreciate.

The book addresses some of the really big questions. What explanations do psychologists have for serial killers? Why do men rape? What is the true impact of media violence? What, if anything, can we do to rehabilitate offenders?

We are all interested in the darker side of human nature and this book offers the reader real insight into shocking and disturbing behaviour without trading on lurid sensationalism.

Sport and fitness play an increasingly important role in our lies. Barbara Woods's book looks at the wide range of psychological theory, old and new, providing insights into the way our individual personality traits make us suited to certain sports, the motivation of sportsmen and women, methods of training for success, and the links between stress arousal and performance.

It is a useful text for students of psychology and sports science alike.

Environmental factors - noise, pollution, overcrowding - are a major influence on our behaviour and emotions. At the same time, we make a major impact on our environment - global warming,the destruction of wildlife habitats and so on. SusanCave explores this two-way relationship.

One interesting aspect of her book is the research looking at why, despite increased public concern over the environment, our behaviour remains distinctly environmentally-unfriendly - do you drive your car to the bottle bank?

The series as a whole is well written with up-to-date references. Other topicscovered are early child development and health organisations.

These books will appeal to students of many subjects.

Teresa Smyth is head of psychology at Palmers College, Essex

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